The Reverse of Homework

young woman doing homework on her bed

Is it time to take the "home" out of homework?

An idea I’ve been thinking about for a while recently came across my Twitter feed: The Reverse of Homework.  A little digging brought me to the original article (edit: no longer freely available) referenced in the tweet.  Essentially, the idea is to take the lecture portion of a class and put it online.  Class time can then be used for problems and activities that had been relegated to homework.  While not everything in an ESL context can be put online, there are some areas where this strategy can be used.

In my own intermittent attempts in grammar classes, I’ve run into some of the issues described in the article, most of which had to do with students’ adjustment from the traditional homework paradigm.  But the benefits included students being able to review the material as much or as little as they chose (which may also constitute an “issue”) and having much more class time to answer the most difficult, challenging and interesting questions which students often run into by themselves at home and then forget to ask the next day.

Another benefit is that this approach can accommodate multiple learning styles.  When I was in college, I had trouble doing the background reading for lectures, but found it easy to read the material after the lecture.  Similarly, in language classes, I would rather build my knowledge by attempting things and making mistakes because I have to find the reason for learning a particular structure or set of vocabulary before I am motivated to study it.  My teaching often reflects my own learning style, but I recognize that not everyone prefers to learn the way I do.  Reversing homework allows students to prepare for the activities by listening to the lecture in advance or to attempt the activities and then go back and use the lecture as a resource.

The biggest downside is that it can take a long time to develop and adapt lectures to an online format.  But, if they are developed in a modular way, components can be shared and reused, eliminating the need to reinvent the wheel each time a course is taught.  By combining original resources with preexisting resources, students may be given a wide variety of options which they can use to meet their goals and the goals of the course.

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